Wizards’ Trevor Ariza will “keep shooting” until slump is over

Washington Wizards forward Trevor Ariza (1) dunks the ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, in Washington. The Rockets won 114-107. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
I’ve got to take it how I can get it. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trevor Ariza started the Wizards’ scoring with a three-pointer and ended it with a dunk in Monday’s 107-99 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. In between, Ariza only made two other baskets – and both came from cutting to the basket for two-handed jams.

A three-dunk night is rare for Ariza but one he’ll gladly accept if it means that something went down for him. When asked what led to his rim-rocking preference against the 76ers, Ariza explained, “I missed all my [other] shots.”

Ariza scored 13 points in the Wizards’ victory but shot just 4 of 12 from the field and 1 of 7 from three-point range. It was the third straight game and seventh time in 12 games this month that Ariza was limited to one or fewer three-pointers.

Ariza’s proficiency from long distance greatly contributed to getting off to a career-best start. Through his first 23 games, Ariza was averaging 15.5 points while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 43.3 percent from the field. He also averaged 2.7 made three-pointers per game.

But those same shots have been dropping less frequently since the new year began.

In January, Ariza is averaging just 10.3 points while shooting 37.7 percent from the field overall and has connected on just 16 of 61 (26.2) of his three-point attempts.

“Nothing really, they’re just not falling,” Ariza said, when asked about what has changed. “That happens throughout the season, you’ve just got to keep shooting, keep working on it and whatever happens.”

Ariza then smiled and said, “but I’m going to keep shooting.”

With his shot not falling, Ariza has found other ways to contribute. He has recorded two of four of his double-doubles this month, nothing a season-high 14 rebounds to go with 23 points in a loss to Houston. In the past two games, Ariza had seven rebounds and five assists against Philadelphia and added eight rebounds, a season-high seven assists and three steals in Saturday’s loss to Detroit.

The Wizards (20-20) are in a three-way tie for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference and have another chance to claim a winning record for the first time in January since 2008 on Wednesday when they host the Boston Celtics.

Ariza had two of his best performances of the season when the Wizards had opportunities to get winning records. He had 28 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in the season opener against Detroit and had 22 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals in an overtime loss on Dec. 6 against Milwaukee.

But he has struggled in Washington’s past two attempts to get over the hump this month, shooting a combined 4 of 21 for 15 points in losses to Dallas and Detroit. He stressed the need to block out any thoughts that could cause the players to press.

“We just have to look at it as another ball game of us trying to win, instead of looking at the rankings,” Ariza said. “I fell like if we take that approach and not worry about .500 basketball or over .500 and just play. I feel like we’ll have a better opportunity to win.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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